Where do I fit in?

 

That’s the next big question. If I’m going to pursue a PhD, where would I do it? Obviously it’s got to be a program that allows a multi-disciplinary track, and one that I can pretty much design myself. It also has to be close to home, since I can’t really uproot my family in pursuit of my own higher education. Luckily, it looks like we are in for a move to New England and there are tons of great schools up there. So I’ve started inquiring about some of the programs in the area to see if I can find a good match.

And I learned right away that I better be careful about how I word my interests.

At one school, I asked about their Medical Anthropology program and told them that I was interested in “the epidemic of gluten sensitivity, food allergies, autoimmune disorders, obesity, our modern (US) food system, and implications for the paleolithic diet and paleo nutrition.” In the email response that I got back, I could feel the professor bristle as he said,

I think the Paleo diet “movement” is problematic on several grounds: 1) there was no one paleo diet, it varied over time and place, and in some places probably included wild grains; and 2) human biological evolution is continuous, although granted most of human history was spent prior to the origin of plant domestication.

He also said that it is “certainly a challenge” to have one’s research have an effect on people’s diet (even though I had asked more broadly about how my research could have an influence on our health system).

Oops. I didn’t mean to upset anyone, really. I’m not a cross-fitting, paleo pushing, fanatic. I just know there is ample anecdotal evidence of people reversing chronic diseases by eating a paleo diet, as well as scientific evidence of some of its health benefits [1][2][3]. And I am genuinely interested in this. As well as how the Inuit, Masai (and others’) diets compare to the SAD (Standard American Diet) in parallel with chronic diseases amongst these same civilizations. And why someAmerican Indian tribes are actually reverting to pre-colonial diets… When I tried to explain myself, by saying that it doesn’t really matter what we call the diet, but that there is a movement among Functional doctors to treat chronic disease with food, and that’s what I’m interested in, another professor told me that the “science just isn’t there.” But I was told to feel free to call them anyway to discuss the program more. I will wait until I can better explain my interests, without ruffling any tail feathers.

In the meantime, I tried a second school, which has as an Epidemiology department, as well as a Medical Anthropology program AND a Microbiology department. What could be better? Sounds right up my alley! But I haven’t been able to reach the ONE Anthropology professor who might be inclined to take on a student (I was told), and it’s been over a month. Guess he’s in the field somewhere. I haven’t been able to meet with the Epidemiology professor either, because she’s working on a big grant application. But the head of the microbiology lab did tell me curtly that he doesn’t have any room for the upcoming year. That is, for 2015-2016. And that kind of puts a damper on things. Would that mean I would have to waylay all classes for another year if I wanted to go to that school?

I’m not too excited about the idea of postponing school. Again. Mostly because of my age. I mean, I still feel youthful, but time moves at a faster clip once you’re in your 40s. And I don’t want to be finishing college just as my kids are thinking about starting!

In the meantime, I will continue my search…

 

REFERENCES

[1] Frassetto LA, M Schloetter, M Mietus-Synder, RC Morris Jr and A Sebastian. 2009. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009) 63, 947–955.

[2] Jönsson T, Y Granfeldt, B Ahrén1, U Branell, Gr Pålsson, A Hansson, M Söderström and S Lindeberg. 2009. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovascular Diabetology 2009, 8:35.

[3] Lindeberg S, Jönsson T, Granfeldt Y, Borgstrand E, Soffman J, Sjöström K, Ahrén B. 2007. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease. Diabetologia. Sep;50(9):1795-807. Epub 2007 Jun 22.